This piece is published as part of our new Immigration Idea Incubator which features policy ideas our team has been thinking about in addition to our formal immigration strategy work. We welcome your thoughts and engagement!

Many aspects of the U.S. immigration system are outdated and out of touch with current realities. From country caps designated in 1990 to Schedule A’s list of shortage occupations from 1991, the system can no longer meet our needs thanks to decades-old capacity constraints. Still, even within these constraints, the labor certification and recruitment process must be modernized to ensure that protecting and utilizing American workers continues to be our priority.

Labor certification is a hallmark of the permanent, employment-based U.S. immigration program. It aims to ensure that employers can demonstrate a genuine need for foreign labor in the occupation requested. This means they must supply the Department of Labor (DoL) with evidence of failed domestic recruitment before requesting a foreign employee’s green card.

A particularly antiquated step in that process requires employers to advertise their vacant positions in the local Sunday newspaper. The employers then provide copies of that newspaper to the DoL to support their claim that they attempted to recruit eligible candidates domestically but were ultimately unsuccessful. 

While newspapers may have been the primary source of job leads in the 1990s and even early 2000s, that is clearly no longer the case. Most jobseekers now head to online sources and social media for employment opportunities. As of 2020, 85 percent of millennials relied on online job sites to find their next gig. That significance is poised to increase as millennials will make up an overwhelming majority of the American workforce by 2025.

The regulations the U.S. has in place were designed to protect American workers by ensuring that jobs are offered in the domestic labor market before they are offered to recruited foreigners. However, the outdated requirement of newspaper advertisement no longer ensures that employers have made genuine efforts to recruit American talent first. 

We can help protect American workers with modern labor certification processes that don’t focus on recruitment methods like newspaper advertisements. This regulation should be updated to align with the 21st-century labor market and put these jobs first online in front of qualified American workers. This would ensure that American workers are prioritized and protected and relieve pressure on our tight immigration system by first leveraging domestic talent to the fullest extent possible.